On a good day, mornings at my house are controlled chaos. On a bad day, it’s just chaos. Like most parents, I’m fighting a losing battle against the clock — there’s breakfast to make, the dog to feed, backpacks to prepare, and one child who points out EVERY morning what a nicer place the world would be if I would just let him sleep, instead of resorting to stripping the covers off and dragging him feet first out of bed. And inevitably, the crazy hour before school starts ends the same way — me booming in a voice that cannot possibly belong to my 5’2 body: “GET. IN. THE. CAR. RIGHT. NOW!”
We’ve been doing this dance together for six years now — since the day my daughter started kindergarten. On good days, I can shake my head and laugh, point out the bluebird at the feeder or the bulbs popping up as I usher them to the car. On bad days, I’m backing out of the driveway and simultaneously delivering one of my dreaded lectures on Responsibility, Punctuality or my personal favorite How Will You Manage in College?
But somehow, every morning, we all wind up in the same place — in the car, listening to our latest book on tape, heading out to face the world together. Right now we’re a unit, my kids and me. We spend a lot of time in the car together, the three of us, and we’re tight, even if they laugh at my music choices and mock my dance moves. And the two of them are even tighter. I watch them sometimes, after I’ve dropped them off, and see how my daughter laughs when he takes off his hat if he thinks I’m out of sight, and how he looks up to her, face shining at making her smile, and sometimes it is hard to drive away.
Because it’s about to change. My oldest is graduating from her elementary school in just three short months, and no matter where she goes, it will never be the same. We’ll still be scrambling to get out the door, but it will be to different destinations: My daughter will be heading to junior high, and my son will be walking up that sidewalk alone, the way he will be for the rest of his academic career. Because of their age difference, it’s unlikely they’ll ever attend the same school at the same time again.
The path that started dividing them from me when they first went to school has branched once more, sending them in separate directions. I’m not sure they realize this yet, if they understand how few mornings we have left together. Next year there may be car pools or buses, a complicated calendar as we struggle to balance everyone’s schedule. My son may finally get to sleep in, my daughter may leave the house without me. But for these last few months, we have time, even if it’s passing too fast. Even if, when I’m yelling at them to get in the car, what I really mean is “Stay here, this size, just like this, forever.”
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